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by ANDREW MATSON & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & W & lt;/span & ired 96.9 has been playing an awful lot of "Let It Roll" by Seattle rap group Steelo lately. Since corporate radio rarely, if ever, plays under-the-radar artists, that's odd. Weirder still, they'll be 96.9's on-air guests the same day they play Wired's showcase at the Spokane County Interstate Fair. All of which led us to wonder: "Who are these guys?" we found out, and we're all conflicted about it.





POINT Steelo sucks.


Comprised of A. Uno and Bobby K., Steelo make hip-hop you've heard a million times.





A. Uno raps like a cake from Safeway: bland and tasteless. He keeps the clich & eacute;s coming a mile a minute. Clothes, bankrolls and hoes appears to be all he knows. Not only is the content lacking, but Uno's cadence is embarrassingly simple and his duo-chromatic delivery (two styles: normal or extra-breathy) sounds contrived. Sincere? Maybe. Clever? Oh, hell no. Everything A. Uno has to say has been said by much better lyricists.





Bobby lays down whiny R & amp;B vocals like sickly-sweet frosting. He can't sing, yet is audibly self-satisfied, crooning with a swagger that would only make sense if he were Ne-Yo. Instead, he barely stays in key and sings out of his nose.





The beats are clich & eacute;s of clich & eacute;s. No-talent "beat-boxing" for a MySpace faux-freestyle? Sexy, Spanish-style classical guitar for a trunk-thumper about, um, riding around in a car? Neptunes rip-offs for tracks about one-night stands? It all adds up to "boring."





There is nothing Steelo can offer that will make hip-hop seem like the exciting, vital art form it can be. Even if you just want some background music to ignore while you clean the house, you'd do better to turn on BET.





COUNTERPOINT Steelo is pretty good.





Obviously aiming for radio play, the vocals sound like they're supposed to: clean and compressed. Bobby sings every bit as well as mainstream hook-artists Pharell and Chris Brown, and maybe a little bit better. A. Uno raps on the beat with a smooth baritone, maintaining a cool, collected front to let the back end bang like crazy.





A. Uno and Bobby K. obviously care about production values. Their songs are well-recorded, mixed, and maybe even mastered. The beats are dope, hit hard on whatever subs are woofing, and shrewdly interpolate current hits into hybrid future-smashes.





It's business-savvy hip-hop done by dudes with a goal: Get known.





Steelo put money where its mouth was and is and they anted up for some serious studio time. Guess what? It shows. Pre-production, production and post-production are in full effect: The hooks are there, the vocals are tight, and the total package is glistening with pop shine.





THE VERDICT


A. Uno and Bobby have nothing to say, but there is something to be said for them: They put serious effort into their product, it shows, people are responding, and they're traveling to the places where they make an impact.





Say what you will about the songs, these guys are doing some things right.





Steelo will be on Wired 96.9 on Saturday, Sept. 15, at 3 pm and at the Spokane County Interstate Fair later that night at 10 pm.
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